Fifty years ago, the first Special Olympics flame was lit in Soldier Field. These inaugural games in Chicago were the start of a worldwide movement. Today, Special Olympics has expanded to 170 countries. Five million athletes with intellectual disabilities participate in related sports, activities, and services.
Special Olympics International held their 50th Anniversary Celebration in Chicago during the week of July 17, 2018. Events took place all over the city and suburbs, including an international soccer tournament, Inclusion Festival, and Healthy Athletes screenings. The Illinois College of Optometry sent faculty, residents, staff, and students to volunteer for the Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program. Energy was high as ICO cared for athletes from over 15 countries. Over two days, our team performed eye assessments and distributed new glasses and sunglasses. Lenses were cut on-location in real time.
Another part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration was the dedication of the Eternal Flame. Dr. Sandra Block, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD, participated in the historic ceremony near Soldier Field. This flame will be the starting point for all future Special Olympics torches. This assures that Chicago, birthplace of the Special Olympics sports competition, will always have a role in the games.
The 50th Anniversary Celebration concluded on Saturday, July 21, with an incredible concert. The headliner was Chicago favorite Chance the Rapper. He was joined by Usher, Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, and other popular artists. ICO was honored to serve such an important cause and looks forward to Special Olympics events in the future.